Help for hurricane-hit banana farmersPosted: December 14, 2010
The Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group and the Fair Traders Cooperative are aiming to raise funds to support friends and Fair Traders members in the hurricane-hit Caribbean island of St Vincent.
Banana-growers and their communities in St Vincent, whose homes and livelihoods have been devastated by the recent hurricane, chose to invest a total of almost £1,500 in the Fair Traders Cooperative earlier this year, after one farmer was invited to visit Holmfirth and other UK towns by the Fairtrade Foundation as part of Fairtrade Fortnight. Nioka Abbott has been a banana farmer for over 23 years, and is the secretary of the St Vincent National Fairtrade Committee and chair of her local Fairtrade farmers’ group. It was during her visit to the UK in February of this year that she was introduced to Helen Robinson, a founder director of The Fair Traders Cooperative. A friendship developed which continued by email after Nioka had returned to St Vincent, and having heard about the development of the FTC from Helen, Nioka and her colleagues in the local Fair Trade famers’ organisation made the decision to invest in the shop and become a co-operative member of the FTC. Another local Fair Trade group in St Vincent and some members of the local community also bought shares.
Staff and directors of the Fair Traders Cooperative were both delighted and humbled by such an investment in the shop being made by a producer community based thousands of miles away. “It came as such a lovely surprise,” said Peter Beetlestone, another founder Director of the Fair Traders Cooperative. “We really didn’t expect that the types of groups this shop is designed to support would be providing support to us, but the St Vincent banana farmers’ contribution is a real boost to funds and a wonderful reminder of the co-operative values that underpin what we are trying to do here.” Just months after this investment had been made, however, hurricane Tomas swept through the Caribbean, devastating homes, communities and crops. Thankfully, no-one lost their life to the storm, but thousands of pounds worth of damage has been caused, and it is still unclear whether or not the damaged banana crops – the major source of the community’s livelihood – can be salvaged.
The Holme Valley Fairtrade Support group and the Fair Traders Cooperative want to support the affected communities in St Vincent in rebuilding their lives, and so a number of events have been organised to raise funds. As well as collecting donations at the recent Fair Trade Fashion Show, the Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group is planning a Tropical Tea Party and The Fair Traders Cooperative will host a music evening during January, so that people in Holmfirth can show their support and donate funds for the people of St Vincent. “The banana farmers and their community are our friends,” said Helen Robinson. “They chose to invest their hard-earned funds in our shop so that we could support the livelihoods of others – we don’t even sell bananas. Now we have an opportunity to return their kindness and hopefully make a real difference to the quality of their lives whilst they recover from the effects of the hurricane.”
In addition to the planned fundraising events, a special ‘Christmas Wishes Tree’ has been put up in the community room at the Fair Traders Cooperative. People are encouraged to make a donation for the communities of St Vincent, write their ‘Christmas wish for the world’ on a star and hang it on the tree. Hopefully, our wishes – and our donations – will make a difference.